The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Book Reviews

As depicted by the author, the violent frontier years of the area now known as
Williamson County resembled the confrontation in other areas of Texas where
Anglo-American settlers gradually displaced Comanches and Karankawas. The
Comanche presence in the hills and plains north of Austin was so persistent that
the area did not gain recognition as a county until 1848, when "Williamson" was
selected over the more lyrical "Clearwater County." The post-Civil War cattle
boom attracted outlaws like Sam Bass, but also brought rapid economic growth
to Chisholm Trail towns like Round Rock and Georgetown. In the "boom and
bust" pattern that has characterized much of Texas history, the cattle boom soon
dwindled but gave way to a prosperous cotton economy in the late 18oos.
Williamson County straddles the Balcones Divide, with rich blackland prairie
predominating to the east. Once railroads began to crisscross the county, provid-
ing cheap market access for farmers, Williamson County became one of the
state's premier cotton-growing and -ginning counties. During this period, the
rapidly growing farm and railroad community of Taylor overshadowed the coun-
ty seat, Georgetown.
The collapse of the cotton economy that began after World War I left
Williamson County in decline between 1930 and 1960. Population fell for three
decades, small communities and school districts withered away, and cultivated
acreage shrank. The source of the next boom was the nearby capital city, Austin,
where growth in government and high-tech industries ultimately rescued
Williamson County from decades of economic stagnation.
The turnaround began slowly in the 196os, gained momentum in the 1970s,
and exploded in the last two decades of the century. In the thirty years after
1970, Round Rock grew from 3,000 souls to 53,ooo. During the same period,
the county's population grew five-fold, from 37,000 to 22o,ooo. Like its boom-
ing suburban contemporaries, Collin County north of Dallas and Fort Bend west
of Houston, rural Williamson County was transformed into a sprawling, prosper-
ous suburb populated by new arrivals from all over the United States.
Regrettably, the author covers the remarkable years since 1960 in just a few
pages. While he carefully records the arrival and roles of earlier racial and eth-
nic minorities (African American, Mexican American, Swedish, Czech,
Moravian, and Wendish), he hardly comments on the vast in-migration and
transformation of the past four decades.
In summary, Historc Williamson County is notable for previously unpublished
photographs and as a readable thumbnail history covering the county between
early Anglo American settlement and the 196os. Serious students of the area's
history--and those interested in the transformation of recent decades--will
need to look elsewhere.
Austzn JAMES E. COUSAR
Hll Country Backroads: Showing the Way in Comal County. Laurie E. Jasinski. (Fort
Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2ool. Pp. xi+199. Preface, after-
word, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-87565-239-5, $17.95, paper.)
This is essentially a family history, told against a backdrop of early tourism in
the Texas Hill Country. Although broader contexts of tourism at the state and

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed December 18, 2014.